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Google Chrome OS is an Obvious Response to Bing

Posted by Bob Warfield on July 8, 2009

Bing has been gaining share in the search market for Microsoft.  So what does Google do?  Announce a full frontal assault on the Microsoft OS dominion, of course.  Never mind that it is a totally uninspired sort of response with no details about anything particularly compelling,  or that a Chrome-based OS for netbooks is neither big news nor a “nuclear bomb” on Microsoft.  Never mind that Android hasn’t seemed to go much of anywhere relative to iPhone, that times are tough, or that the market increasingly expects Google to be more profitable.  No folks, we’re going to open up yet another front on the war, spend more money, yada, yada.

Think what you will about the announcement.  It surely did set the blogosphere on fire.  It’s always fun to pile on the market leader.  We’re genetically wired to like doing that.  And it will be a good thing for consumers: competition always is.  But it isn’t the end of Microsoft or more than a temporary PR inconvenience.  It may even be a positive for Microsoft, seriously loosening the anti-trust handcuffs if Google makes much progress.  If nothing else, we haven’t seen anything but talk yet to even know if we like this thing.  We’ll see what “aggressively re-thinking the OS in light of the web really means.”  Android was a bust in terms of such rethinking for a mobile OS.  Hopefully the desktop OS will do better.  Meanwhile we are left with only questions, so many questions.  Folks, it’s a PR strategy not a product strategy: any product strategy is yet to be disclosed.  It is intended to generate questions because that’s what keeps the PR going!

And then there is the small issue of apps.  Of course Google will spin that the Internet is the only app you need.  Mike Arrington totally agrees with that perspective with his “patting himself on the back” post.  We’ve seen that movie before long ago in a galaxy far away.  Netscape tried it.  It didn’t work.  The iPhone has clearly shown that the Internet is a wonderful “built in app”, but that a vibrant third party app ecosystem is absolutely critical in addition to the Internet.  BTW, if it does seem to be working, GooglePads (netbooks with Chrome) and CrunchPads can be toast in short order with Apple simply stepping in with their own device, and MSFT will wind up just cutting XP prices for such devices in response.  After all, they survived the Linux assault in fine form, and that was far more innovative than anything we’ve yet heard about the Chrome OS.  Absent some real innovation (which I have to admit Google may still produce, and folks like my EI compatriot Phil Wainewright are confident are there), that’s check and checkmate.  Game over.

These are not the droids you’re looking for.  Move on.

PS  Congrats to Om Malik for being the only A-Lister I have read so far who called BS on this announcement instead of just breathlessly reporting how great it is for the world and how bad it is for Microsoft.  As Om says, “ChromeOS is a scramble to say nothing.”  And RE Apple stepping in, I do think they’ll wait until either Chrome shows real traction, or they come up with an “insanely great” user experience that others won’t be able to duplicate.  They’re already on record saying they don’t believe in Netbooks because laptops give a better experience and are about the same size.  For the record, I agree with Apple on that.

PPS  Scoble has some scoop.  Microsoft has an announcement he says will be interesting to compare to ChromeOS ready to go Monday.  Bets are that Microsoft’s announcement is either Gazelle, a browser-based lightweight OS just like ChromeOS (lions and tigers, oh my!) or Office Web.  The game is afoot.  Woot!

5 Responses to “Google Chrome OS is an Obvious Response to Bing”

  1. kurtcagle said


    A bit of perspective on GCOS, something it took me a bit to ferret out. From the descriptions, what Google is actually doing is creating a window manager rather than a full OS – it is still Linux underneath it (and as a guess, probably Ubuntu), while Chrome basically handles the GUI a la KDE or Gnome. Which means that the apps involved are essentially those that can either be invoked from Linux (i.e., SO’s) or that can be invoked as EXEs via WINE (the most recent versions of which are getting pretty damned good). Additionally, no doubt, there will also be apps that will be built using HTML 5 and JavaScript working against internal objects in
    the appropriate security context. Of course, as most Windows users have almost no idea that you can separate the windows manager from the kernel, Google calling it an “OS” makes sense.

    I doubt seriously that Google is more concerned about Bing than Microsoft is concerned about Chrome. Bing’s a fair search engine, though not all that radically different from Live Search in terms of either interface or usability, but for Microsoft to be chasing Search at this stage of the game is fairly ludicrous – unless it can convince Firefox to adopt it as its default search engine (possible, but highly unlikely). Bing can, of course, be force fed into IE browsers, but I’d argue that the real usage numbers write now would indicate that this is a closed and static market, probably south of 50% by now. Microsoft will come up against a very hard barrier to achieve higher penetration, and I just do not see them breaking through it.

    Concerning Chrome … Chrome’s adoption has been rather spectacular given the fairly crowded browser market, especially given that it is still very much a product in late alpha development and hasn’t even incorporated an extension mechanism into any other than nightly builds. How it will play with extensions will make a big difference in subsequence development, though from my own explorations, the extensions mechanisms are in some respects easier than for Firefox, and considerably easier than for IE. Moreover, I think that Firefox’s third party extension community will likely target Chrome versions of their extensions the moment that such a toolkit does become widely available and stable.

    Is it a little premature to talk about a ChromeOS … perhaps. I do agree with you that Google needs to overcome the ADHD Development syndrome where their developers chase from one project to the next because the new project is more interesting, but overall I’ve actually been fairly impressed of late with what is coming out of their R&D labs. Whether they can harness and orchestrate something even as complex as a windows manager remains to be seen, but I’m no longer as dismissive as I would have been a year ago.

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